A Face in the Crowd

A Face in the Crowd ★★★½

I suppose films like this will always retain some relevance as long as mainstream media rewards whoever shouts the loudest with publicity and regular people repeatedly fall for the same old trick if it's given a new coat of paint. The narrative uses Lonesome Rhodes to epitomise these ideas, his fiercely boisterous attitude and fervent delivery are basically designed to whip crowds into a frenzy whilst pulling the wool over the their eyes. He turns out to be just as amoral as the callous politicans and executives whose views he parrots, yet he's able to win the masses over by creating a persona that gives off an air of authenticity. It's an important topic because controlling and distorting how people perceive public figures is a vital strategy in this system; if you can convince enough citizens that you're 'honest' then you'll prosper, there's countless examples of this over the last couple of decades alone.

Although the writing isn't particularly subtle, I think it does an effective job of conveying the notions it wishes to in a clear and fluid manner. However, I'm not sure the brash style works as successfully since it makes certain parts of the story a little too straightforwardly dramatic and that takes away some of the satirical bite. It's paced oddly at points too, with Lonesome's rise to fame feeling very rushed so that it doesn't quite have the impact it should. Fortunately, the two central performances are sublime. Andy Griffith is absolutely electric in the lead role, creating a seemingly undiluted individual who you'd believe people would follow through his exuberant expressions, rhythmic drawl and restless energy. Patricia Neal is equally fantastic and becomes the soul of the film, tenderly capturing the conflict that befalls her character as she struggles to accept that the man she's helped is a swindler. You can easily guess how it will all conclude, but these two remain compelling throughout.

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